Visiting Kefalonia - What to See and Do
(Kefalonia / Cephalonia International Airport EFL, Greece)
To escape the young and pretty party scenes that shape the atmosphere of many Greek islands, consider Kefalonia
. While it is very well-equipped to accommodate all kinds of visitors, it doesn't particularly seem to care if you are here or not. And that is a big part of its charm.
Kefalonia is an island where you can drop out of the world for a few days and experience Greek life as it has probably been for thousands of years. As the largest of the Ionian Islands, there is plenty to see and do, despite the severe 1953 earthquake that virtually levelled the entire island. As such, the architecture here is decidedly modern, although a few Roman ruins still peek out of the hillsides.
The capital Argostoli is where most of the amenities are found, but even here, things are rather mellow. It is the nature and natural attractions that people come for on Kefalonia, and in that department it certainly delivers. Beautiful uncrowded beaches, rolling vineyards and a smattering of archaeological sites provide plenty of pleasure to choose from.
Ten things you must do in Kefalonia
- The capital of Kefalonia is Argostoli, a quiet city where the main activity is watching other people go about their business. It has the island's most diverse selection of restaurants, bars and hotels, and makes a great base for day outings to the surrounding attractions. Both the Central Square and the waterfront are lined with cafés ideal for sipping a beverage for as long as possible.
- For the prettiest beaches on Kefalonia, head over to Lassi. This resort town has a full contingent of hotels, eateries and nightlife options. It gets pretty busy during the summer season as package tours seem to have zeroed in on its beaches just south of town.
- The top spot on the island to get a sense of the culture and heritage of Kefalonia is the Historical and Folklore Museum of the Corgialenos Library. There is a great collection of photos and relics from before the 1953 earthquake. However, the big draw is the collection of exhibits of everyday items used by the island's residents stretching back centuries.
- Check out the Kefalos Public Theatre for a look at what the local thespian scene is like. Even though the plays are always in Greek, they are very entertaining and typically involve local themes. The theatre will have the full season's schedule on display in its lobby.
- Kefalonia is well-regarded for its traditional cuisine, and two of the dishes you have to try are 'crasto' (pork simmered slowly in wine) and 'kreatopita' (meat pie with rice and a tomato sauce tucked into a crust). Wine is also a treasure of the island, especially its Robola, Mavrodaphne and Muscat.
- If you find the local wines of Kefalonia to your liking, then rent a car and spend a day touring some of its wineries. There are several scattered right around Argostoli, including the Gentilini Vineyard and also the Calliga Vineyard. Both are open to visitors, who can enjoy a tasting of their vintages.
- Arguably the best village on the island to have survived the earthquake relatively intact is Fiskardo. This charming spot has a lot of attractive buildings from the 18th century and a lovely little harbour that suggests what the entire island must have looked like prior to the devastation in 1953. Fiskardo is an easy day outing from Argostoli by public bus or a rental car.
- See for yourself the hometown of the legendary Odysseus of Homer's epic at nearby Ithaca. You will need to take a ferry from Sami to the island, but it is a car ferry, so with a rental you can drive over to explore its main town of Vathy and the handful of ancient sites associated with Homer's Odyssey. It is really quite an adventurous way to spend a day without being much of an odyssey.
- Kefalonia has a handful of caverns that are worth a look just outside of Sami. The Drogarati Cave boasts strange stalagmites and an inner chamber that has hosted live concerts in the past. Visitors can walk through this cave attraction on their own. Spili Melissani is also unique in that it has a lake inside with a boatman. When the sun floods through a skylight it creates a psychedelic rainbow effect off the water.
- Just outside the village of Skala is one of the island's best-preserved Roman villas. It still has remnants of its mosaic floors, and there is an ongoing excavation at the site that reveals more of this ancient place with each passing season.